Pohnpei vehicle registration fee increases by 300% for most
- Category: News
- Published: Monday, 23 January 2017 08:57
- Written by Bill Jaynes
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By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press
January 11, 2017
Pohnpei, FSM—A law tripling the registration fee for most vehicle owners from $10 to $30 in Pohnpei is now in effect. Owners of heavier vehicles will pay a higher registration fee.
The Pohnpei State Legislature sent the bill to Governor Marcelo Peterson for his consideration but the he vetoed the bill and attached a letter explaining his objections.
“The increase in fees for most, if not all, is more than three-fold; a concern shared by our citizens, more so for the unemployed and those with meager resources. The bill no doubt will have a substantial impact on current and future owners of motor vehicles,” the Governor’s letter said.
“In the alternative, I take this opportunity to recommend proposed legislation to increase sales tax on items such as alcohol and tobacco that have a negative impact on the health and welfare of our people. Similarly, proposed legislation to increase the penalties and fines for criminal offenses, namely for repeat offenders may be appropriate as well,” the letter concluded. In mid-December, the Legislature overturned the Governor’s rejection of the bill and the new law took effect on January 1, 2017.
Vehicle registration fees have remained the same since before Pohnpei became a State according to the Justice and Governmental Operations committee report recommending the veto override. That report said that previously $9.85 of the across the board $10 registration fee for vehicles had gone to the municipalities where vehicles were primarily parked. The other 1.50 went to the Pohnpei treasury for government operations. None of the funds was specifically earmarked for road maintenance.
The new law finally provides money for the Paved Road Maintenance Fund. 50 percent of registration fees will go to that fund. 25 percent will go to the Division of Police and Security Fund, and the remaining 25 percent will go to the treasuries of the local governments where the vehicles are regularly parked or stored.
The law says that motorcycle registrations will cost $25 annually. The rest of the fees are a bit harder to define. The law says, “(b) Jeep, Sedan, and other vehicles not specified in Paragraph (c) of this subsection--$30, and (c) pickups, trucks, buses and other vehicles not specified in the foregoing paragraphs, weight in pounds at the time of original sale in the state of Pohnpei:”
It then goes on to list the registration fees by weight for those types of vehicles. Vehicle owners of that type that are under 2,000 pounds will now pay $35 per year. Those that have vehicles 2,000 to 2,999 pounds pay $40. Vehicles between 3,000 and 5,999 pounds will cost $45 for registration. Vehicles between 6,000 and 7,499 pounds cost $95. Registration for those between 7,500 and 9,999 pounds cost $100. Vehicles of 10,000 pounds or over now cost $350 for annual registration.
The committee report recommending passage of the bill into law said while it is true that the increase is three times the current registration fee, it is also true that the cost of maintaining roads in Pohnpei has increase by 500 percent since Pohnpei became a State. It said that on a daily basis, more than 6,000 vehicles travel the roads in Pohnpei and that each month, 45 new cars arrive at the dock. The committee report rejected the Governor’s recommendation that the Legislature instead look at increasing penalties and fines for criminal offenses. It said that the Pohnpei Constitution bars the setting of excessive bails or fines, so that method of raising revenue would be constitutionally banned.
The report argued that if a person can afford to purchase a vehicle for thousands of dollars, the person “most likely” can also afford to pay for the privilege of using public services like roads. “Thus, your Committee believes that it is consistent with our reform policies in revenue generation to sustain essential public services moving forward.”
The law says that registrations shall expire and should be renewed each year in accordance with a monthly schedule established by the Director of the Department of Public Safety. It then codifies a requirement that the rules and regulations regarding expiry and renewal dates of registration be based on an alphabetical identification numbering system based on last name or the first noun in the name of a company or other entity.
That system has been somewhat problematic for enforcement in the past. DPS quite frequently runs out of license plates with the correct first letter of a vehicle owner’s name. When that happens they often issue license plates with the incorrect first letter. It makes it difficult for police officers on routine patrols to easily tell from looking at a license plate whether the vehicle is properly registered or not. Further, when a vehicle owner goes to DPS to renew their vehicle registration, it is not uncommon for the traffic section to try to charge a late registration fee for a vehicle owner who is in compliance with the law but who was issued a license tag that does not reflect the name of the owner. It sometimes requires a bit of explaining even though the vehicle owner’s registration card clearly lists the name of the owner and the date of previous registration